Kissed by the sun
Around Sydney – Australia
You don’t travel all the way around the globe just to see the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge. No, melting pot Sydney, her beaches and the rough hinterland make you beg for more with their delightful atmosphere and the truckloads of sunshine. It’s the vibe, mate.
Sydney is probably the most relaxed metropole you will ever come across. Look at it as a tropical version of a British city, where palm trees, shorts and flipflops welcome you. There is however one thing the Aussies take very seriously: their coffee. “In England, you can get bad coffee. Not here!”, answers British born receptionist when we ask her for ‘a good coffee place’. For ten years now, every self-respecting café now employs a barista, and with apps on their phone like Beanhunter, Sydneysiders localise the caffeine bars of exceptional quality. The favourites are mainly located in Surry Hills and Darlinghurst, two former disadvantaged areas of the city. Creative youngsters conquered the districts and brought tolerance, bars, restaurants and a lot of coffee. A complete tasting profile with your morning shot of caffeine doesn’t surprise anyone around here.
The favourites are mainly located in Surry Hills and Darlinghurst, two former disadvantaged areas of the city.
A full brekkie with pancakes
Sydneysiders with a little more time start their day with a breakfast in a café like Bills, which once started in downtown Surry Hills but has opened in Hawaii, Japan and South-Korea in the meantime as well. Despite the view of running fit girls and cycling guys, you still go for a full brekkie: a Bellini-cocktail (prosecco with pear puree) and a pile of savoury ricotta pancakes with banana, honey and a knob of honeycomb butter. Starting at 9, there is a line at the curb, so be on time. It also leaves you with more time to burn off those calories afterwards.
At some point, you get to the quarter The Rocks, the place where the Brits dropped their anchor for the first time in 1788, and which is now the departure point for ferries to all corners of the city.
By checking in and out with your Mastercard, you pay the same low fare as with the local public transport card.
Every random ferry carries you past the erratic shores of the harbour and treats you to the skyline of the city, the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House. Also nice to know: no hassle with tickets in Sydney. By checking in and out with your Mastercard, you pay the same low fare as with the local public transport card.
Fused with the beach
Everyone we asked for their favourite part of town, sent us to the outskirts of the city. Like in Rio and Honolulu, Australia’s largest city is fused with the beach. Bondi Beach is by far the most popular among surfing newbies, swimmers and sun lovers. Barely-there-bikinis are popular with women, and as a man, you can only take off your shirt when you obediently visit the gym during the week. On the south side of the bay, on the border of rock and see, you find the pools of Iceberg, that are supplied with salty sea water with every wave. The balcony of the Club hangs one floor above the Olympic pool. You can have a seat here for the view, the astonishing collection of beers on tap and a portion of fish and chips.
Australia is the ultimate road-trip country, so we send ourselves, driving on the left side of one of the eight lanes, via Harbour Bridge to the hinterland of the state of New South Wales. Once outside the city, the water masses start to look like Norwegian fjords. A little further, on Route 33, pines and palms make room for plains with deserted gas station and hamlets where the garage sales announced on simple white paper seem to be the event of the week. Soon after, both radio and phone signal drop and Wollombi Road takes us to Hunter Valley, taking more turns than there are surfboards in Bondi.
No group tours in smooth cellars, but a bar where you can taste anything.
Hunter is Sydney’s wine region, where grapes love the sun as much as the inhabitants do. And where Maureen and Kathryn, two pleasant ladies of middle age, just close the door of winery Peterson when we arrive. Before we have parked the car, the doors have been opened again. Blocks of cheese, crackers and an order list appear on the bar, because this is wine tasting Aussie Style.
Based on the two grape varieties we mention, they open one bottle after another. Under the cloak of ‘homework’, both ladies taste some glasses alongside us. Australians purchase substantially at a winery and drive home with a loaded-up truck. They bring the bottles to drink when going out for dinner, because bring your own is common practice around here. “BYO is brilliant!” declares Kathryn. “The restaurant doesn’t have to purchase a liquor licence, and you can bring your own bottle.”
In comparison with the city, it’s heavenly quiet here.
With a half-filled trunk and a full tank, we drive on, over Putty Road and through mazes of gorges. The deep red rock on both sides of the quiet road suits the smouldering heat: it’s autumn and 36 degrees. Three national parks and 214 kilometres further onwards, we enter the Blue Mountains, a sandstone plateau at 900 meters altitude.
A few meters away from a sleepy town, where the lanes are so steep we keep overtaking our own shadow, three rock formations tower over the valley. Meehni, Wimlah and Gunnedoo are for convenience purposes called The Three Sisters and are in every picture. When we arrive there a little after five, parking is free and the tourist information point and the cable car are closed.
And indeed, a little later we find ourselves on the edge of the chasm, while the sun kisses the earth goodnight. Sublime.
So we walk freely from vantage point to panorama place, feeling as though we were alone. At Lady Darley, one of the photo opportunity points, we encounter a father and son from the village. “Drive on to Sublime Road, the point where you look straight onto the sisters at sunset. It’s a favourite spot for locals.” And indeed, a little later we find ourselves on the edge of the chasm, while the sun kisses the earth goodnight. Sublime.